From garage to shallow pool to the road

Biking down Wellington Avenue today, as I passed palatial garages, I was struck by the fact that these people's cars have nicer houses than many people in the world.

Before you think I'm picking on the rich, please hear that I then considered that any North American with a decent garage provides their cars with more substantial shelter than many people in the world sleep under. And while I thought it highly appropriate for this discrepancy to give us pause, this is not a call for guilt.

Is it injust that some should have so much while others have so little? Certainly. Should we be aware of the imbalance, and our place on the overprivileged side of the scale? Absolutely. Should we feel guilty? I'm not convinced.

Guilt is often not a helpful emotion. Unless guilt motivates us toward repentance, to turning away from those patterns that caused us to feel guilty, or to take action of some sort, it quickly turns into a swirling, sucking drain. How often have you heard or said, "I felt guilty, but did it anyway," for which, in turn, we feel guilty, but -- having realized guilt can be sidelined -- we enter this vicious cycle of feeling guilty for doing wrong, which generally leads us to indulgence to assuage/forget the guilt, but rarely modifying behaviour or making right choices.

Guilt's tendency toward wallowing is perhaps the key to what makes me so uncomfortable with an adamant, single-minded insistence on the penal satisfaction model of the atonement. With its emphasis on guilt and the substitutionary payment of penalty by Jesus, penal satisfaction does not urge the guilty one to respond with a life of discipleship. It simply demands you recognize your guilt, and once you've recognized that, and been overwhelmed by your unworthiness before a holy God, assures you, "it's okay. You're forgiven; your punishment was taken by someone else." Thus inducing more guilt.

Reconciliation, discipleship, hard work, and faithful obedience aren't really part of the picture -- which I find profoundly incomplete. Not wrong, per se, just shallow.

So what about that garage, and the car sitting in it? Don't feel guilty; there's enough of that going around. Instead, creatively seek to reconcile your affluence in the face of need.

In pursuit of that simple yet elusive law of love, I'll keep pedalling, thinking, and writing.


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